Sensory Processing Disorder

Eating Worms! A guide to eating with Sensory Processing Disorder

There aren’t many things that can frustrate a mom more than a child that just won’t eat, can’t eat or refuses to eat. There aren’t many things that are more frustrating than a child refusing to touch his food. Welcome to the Paulson household! Von is 3 years old, and to date he will only touch crackers, dry cereal, cheetos and grapes with skin. If you place anything on his plate that appears slimy, has a “weird” texture, or is simply unpleasant to his liking he will not touch it and will not feed himself.  I imagine when he looks at his plate it must appear like this:

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That is the only logical reason I can think a child would not want to feed himself. Worms! In Von’s little mind, which is actually very large, I am starting to believe all food that is of an undesirable texture has to look like worms. The food must be slimy, slithering, and it most certainly is trying to wiggle its way into his mouth, down his throat, and to end up just wiggling around in that tummy so empty it growls. The worms must be so large and unpleasant that it causes him to wince in sheer agony if something as disgusting as yogurt would even have the nerve to simply graze or touch his gentle skin on his fingers. There have been moments of sheer panic on his face, and real tears when he sees food on his fingers. It’s not just food on fingers though that terrify Von. NO! Don’t let those wormy, worms slither onto the table near him. That diabolical milk better not drip to his shirt or a scream of sheer panic may exit those tiny vocal cords.

The worms control our lives as meals take on more than an hour. We work diligently to teach him that they are not worms but in fact, the food is yummy and tasty. It is chock full of vitamins and protein to help him grow big and strong. Yet, despite the months of work, we are in no better position than we were 6 months ago when we started feeding therapy. Von still will not touch those dang worms, and he still cries when many foods even touch his tiny fingers. Each day we are still feeding Von nearly every single bite of food. Nearly every meal will take us more than an hour as he not only won’t touch the food but many foods he simply won’t chew or swallow. Food is a touchy subject in our home. It makes my own skin crawl thinking about having to sit another hour at the table coercing him to eat.

We have these amazing safe foods. Foods that are safe and not worm-filled in Von’s eyes. They are tasty and delicious morsels of junk that he will so willing hoard and stuff his mouth full of, and unfortunately, they offer little to no nutritional value. The funny thing amid it all ​is prior to Von, I ate organic and cooked fresh. My child was going to eat organic too! He would not have those evil chemicals and dyes that Natural Blogs assure you are not only causing behavioral issues in children but most certainly contributing to every form of cancer ever invented. My child was going to be GREEN! Yet, here I am 3 years later with a child who will only feed himself Cheetos, Reese’s Cereal Puffs, Grapes, Sun Chips, and crackers. If you place any other food in his face, I guarantee he believes the worms are coming for him.

Prior to having Von I had never heard of Sensory Processing Disorder. I didn’t know that a neurological response to stimuli could possibly make life so difficult to manage. There was never a moment I considered a noise, a food, texture, movement or sight could either send my child spiraling out of control or force him to seek that stimuli so much he can’t interact with anything else. This is different than having a quirk. This is a debilitating condition that rules every single facet of Von’s life. It most notably controls his diet. He isn’t a picky eater. Far from it. He’s terrified of certain foods, and if you present the food in a way he finds offensive, you will be lucky if he will ever eat the food again.  His diet is boring. Each and every day my child eats the exact same foods that he’s deemed safe and willing to not only allow into​ his mouth but also chew. Any other food is simply a wiggly worm that we are forcing him to eat for no good reason. The amount of tears from both of us during meals is enough to probably fill a small pond in the field behind my home. It would likely be the first salt water pond ever made from Organic Tears.

We work diligently in therapy, and in educating myself on Oral Aversion, I’m learning this is not something Von will simply overcome. We will have to teach, train and hopefully encourage him that food is fun and not full of slimy worms trying to inhabit his adorable belly. We play with food. Let him drive his motorcycles (cheerios) through the mud (yogurt), in the hopes that he become less averse to the food we introduce. Our goal is for one day he not only touch the food but also Tastes​ the food. We hope that he will eventually want to feed himself the food ​and that we won’t be spending more than 3 hours a day on simply feeding him. Our goal is simple, we want Von to enjoy the ​food. We want him to not fear his birthday cake. We want him to view food positively and not like slithering worms trying to harm him. If we have to spend years doing this, I will work on it daily so he can be free of his fear of food. We will not let the worms win!

Gummy Worms

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9 thoughts on “Eating Worms! A guide to eating with Sensory Processing Disorder

  1. I feel your pain. My son is exactly the same, but I have two kids, so can’t spend that long trying to encourage Marshall to eat. It is a crazy life, I pray he will eat his pasta, and then I pray that he won’t get bored and refuse that as well because if he does, he won’t have any other alternative for dinner, supper, breakfast… I just found a recipe that has the same consistency of those puffis but it is home made. They are hard in the outside and soft inside. They are Gluten Free and sugar free. Easy to make if you have a good stand mixer. It is called biscoito de polvilho… It is Brazilian. Maybe he would eat that. All the luck for you and your family.

  2. I have been dealing with this issue for 10 years. We’ve done everything from therapy, meds and other interventions and still today my 10 year old will not eat anything but the plain and boring few foods that he has decided it is okay to eat. We’ve recently been told by a new therapist that this is “about control”. And even if it was, it is just not control. He is scared of trying new foods, flavored and textures. He cries and stares at the food and refuses to eat. I would give anything to change that for him. If anyone has solutions that have worked I would love to hear about them and I am glad that I’m not alone.

    1. I’m so sorry you are also going through this too! We are starting in-home feeding therapy in 2 weeks. I’m eager to see what the therapist suggests, and if I find anything Valuable I will definitely update the blog.

  3. Our 11 year old daughter is the same. She eats the same bland things in the same order every day. We spent hours being upset, and worry about her health. She wouldn’t even sit at the same table as us to eat, because of the smell and look of our food. We totally backed off in the end,easier said than done I know! But once the anxiety and pressure was taken away, she slowly began to tolerate us sitting with her. Also I know this may be deemed as bad parenting , but she uses an ipad at the table to purely to distract her from the anxiety of a meal time. We have had some tiny break throughs , ( huge to us) where she has touched or even tried a new food. I’m hopeful that bit by bit as she gets older we can slowly introduce another food to her very limited diet. She has lots of sensory issues, clothes, noise etc . I do think lowering their anxiety ,by distraction is the way forward. Good luck and please try not to beat yourselves up about it. Now and again kids like ours do things that we really don’t expect. X

  4. I am so sorry for your struggle, and truly understand what you are going through as a feeding therapist myself and a mom to a picky eater with (thankfully decreasing) sensory issues. It can be maddening and horribly stressful for everyone, and getting the right kind of therapy is crucial. I co-authored a book called Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating that might be helpful for you. You can check out our website at http://www.extremepickyeating.com. Good luck and I hope you start seeing some progress soon!

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